How does the idea of rubbing beef tallow onto your armpits every morning sound? Unappealing? Maybe confusing? Perhaps intriguing? Read on…
First, a bit of history. The use of animal fats in candles, soaps, salves, ointments, and cooking goes way back, but not without controversy. We’re talking ancient Egypt and ancient Greece, as well as first-century Celts, who used it for soap and candles. And chances are your grandparents and great-grandparents cooked with and made some of their everyday hygiene products out of animal fat too. The label on a tin of McQueen’s Pure Mutton Tallow, manufactured in Tennessee in 1895, says, “Valuable as a family remedy for chapped and rough skin caused by exposure to inclement weather. Excellent as a skin cleanser and also used as a foundation for various medical ointments.”
Beginning in the early 1900s, however, lard and tallow began to lose their sheen. Americans learned to steer clear of animal fats, due in large part to the advent of hydrogenated oils, clever advertising, and media attention around the indecent treatment of animals.The Happiness Diet recounts in detail the rise of hydrogenated oils and the fall of animal fats for cooking. An excerpt quoted in The Atlantic article How Vegetable Oils Replaced Animal Fats in the American Diet says, “Convincing homemakers to swap butter and lard for a new fat created in a factory would be quite a task, so the new form of food needed a new marketing strategy. Never before had Procter & Gamble—or any company for that matter—put so much marketing support or advertising dollars behind a product…The unprecedented product rollout resulted in the sales of 2.6 million pounds of Crisco in 1912 and 60 million pounds just four years later.”
Earlier, in 1906, Upton Sinclair published his celebrated novel The Jungle, which shined an eerie spotlight on the horrifying conditions in the country’s meatpacking and processing facilities. The book was so disturbing that Americans swore off lard in large numbers. For many years after, animal fats for cooking and body care were in the doghouse, but now, after nearly a century of anti–animal fat sentiment in popular culture, things are beginning to shift.
Today, artisanal lard is appearing at farmers markets and on the shelves of fancy grocery stores, and tallow is increasingly touted as an effective ingredient in bath and body-care products. Enter ie&Y, a new Boulder, Colorado, company run by four women who create and sell personal-care products using—among other ingredients—lard and tallow. Their decision to focus on body-care products is grounded in the fact that, as they explain, “It’s now well known that most of what goes on your skin goes in your body. Therefore, we think products should be non-toxic, while being especially suited to the skin…No one else was making a product like this that we were really into, so we made our own.”
The company’s name comes from suffix letters in the names of its cofounders, Katie, Mary, Jamie, and Katy. I recently sat down with two of the four creative women—Mary and Katy—for a chat about what they do, why they do it, and how you can join in their passion for making the things that clean and nourish your body.
All of the ie&Y ladies are designers of one kind or another. Katy comes from a landscape architecture background, while the others are graphic designers. They also bring many other skills and experiences to the table. For example, in addition to being the product development and sourcing specialist for the company, Katy is a certified nutritionist. And in addition to being the written voice of ie&Y, Mary is an apprentice farmer and permaculturist . They bring their diverse but related expertise together to fulfill their mission to help consumers make healthier choices and become more self-reliant. Mary calls their endeavor a “joyful rebellion”—it’s not about fomenting a revolution; it’s about creating good-for-you alternatives that connect people to one another; to nature; and to healthy, whole, natural ingredients.
ie&Y began by offering in-person do-it-yourself workshops to adventurous souls who wanted to learn to make mustard, mix herbal teas, and brew bone broth and fermented drinks. Soon after, the group realized that they wanted to build a viable consumer-product company to meet the growing demand for alternative skin-care products that were effective and healthy. In the summer of 2015 they released their first product, PITS Deodorant, which is applied as a cream that users rub onto their underarms. They started with PITS because, as Katy explains, it’s so hard to find a deodorant that actually works and isn’t chock-full of what Mary calls “crap.” But Katy has a far more personal reason for making the product: Her mother, maternal grandmother, and aunt all died of breast cancer. To help others, she wants to encourage people to get up close and personal with their bodies through daily self-checks that are incorporated into people’s hygienic habits. Katy believes that application of the deodorant can help users observe physical changes in their bodies while also helping with lymph drainage and moving toxins out of the body.
The deodorant is currently made with beef tallow, which Katy explains is “a cleansing and moisturizing agent that’s been used for thousands of years. It’s got amazing vitamins in it and chemical properties that are similar to our skin’s. Our skin absorbs it easily and isn’t left looking or feeling greasy.” According to Mary, PITS customers are pleasantly surprised that it absorbs as quickly as it does.
So what do Katie, Mary, Jamie, and Katy say to vegans and vegetarians who are concerned about their ingredient choices? Mary shares her insights, “We certainly appreciate these beliefs and may offer a vegan alternative in the future. We are also passionate about supporting the people in our community [who are] raising animals humanely, connecting people to nature and their food, and rejuvenating the land in the process.” ie&Y is committed to sourcing its ingredients from farmers who give their animals a happy life. And the women see themselves as working to ensure that no part of an animal is wasted, a practice known as “nose-to-tail” consumption. Through its products, ie&Y will work to provide a positive use for what would otherwise be considered trash.
Turning fat into tallow or lard requires a rendering process. ie&Y partners with Fatworks, another Colorado-based company, to source some of its rendered animal fats. Because Fatworks obtains its fat from pasture-raised animals on small farms, the company is philosophically aligned with ie&Y. Katy tells me that the women have loved working with Fatworks, adding that David Cole, the CEO of Fatworks, seeks healthy, wholesome ingredients, just like ie&Y does. She adds that sourcing carefully can sometimes slow down the process because ie&Y is relying on small farms rather than big factory farms, but it’s worth it; they wouldn’t do it any other way. Katy explains, “We want to promote those people who are doing good things for the earth, for people, for animals.”
Want to get your hands on some PITS Deodorant? Visit ieandy.com. Want to create an animal fat–based product of your own? Check out the lip salve recipe below from ie&Y.
Author: Mara Rose
Editor: Joy Herbers